This photo was taken on 22 March 2016. I didn’t know it then but it was when two families lost their beloved sons. A train ran into two trainee technicians as they were on a track. It must have been a moment of unfathomable grief. The enquiry that followed concluded that it was mostly human error. Specifically, negligence in observing safety rules on the part of the seniors in the work crew was the chief cause of the tragedy. See a brief statement from SMRT here. Continue reading ‘Hushed tracks’
For an island almost smack on the equator, why are solar panels so hard to spot in Singapore? This question struck me as I endured yet another scorching day.
Plenty of intense sunlight, but where are the solar panels?
March to May are usually the hottest months of the year with temperatures frequently hitting 34 degrees Celsius, sometimes reaching 35 or 36. But a recent report in Today newspaper indicates that the future may be worse. Continue reading ‘Little red dot must learn to capture infrared’
My mind wanders a lot. There have been idle moments when, presented with a slice of birthday cake on a plastic or paper plate, I have wondered about the environmental-friendliness of the plate. Reading about Joe Nguyen’s travails in getting his Tesla model S licensed in Singapore, I started to wonder about cake on disposable plate again. Continue reading ‘Tesla: new technologies need new ways of thinking’
Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn
This spot on planet Earth has been inhabited for well over two thousand years — as Byzantium, Constantinople, then Istanbul — and was a great cosmopolitan capital city for 1,500 of those. Merchants and scholars from all over the then-known world flocked to it.
I can’t say, however, that it is cosmopolitan any more, certainly not by the standards of London, New York, Paris or Sydney today. Or even Singapore. Istanbul has a cultural homogeneity that our more nostalgic romantics might wish we had. Continue reading ‘Ourselves through Istanbul’
Where we go wrong is in our use of words. I have always cringed when Singaporeans use the word “house” to mean their flat. I may be old-fashioned in this respect, but I would only use the word “house” when I refer to a dwelling that sits directly on a plot of land; I would not use it for a pigeon coop in the sky. If one looks at international usage, that’s probably the norm.
The wrong choice of words affects how we think of something. Words come with associations and values. I’d argue that our careless choice of words warp how we think of Housing and Development Board flats — public housing in which 85% of Singaporeans live. Continue reading ‘Flats are not houses, think hospital beds instead’
I see bad English all over Singapore, but because I don’t want to sound like a language Nazi, I hold myself back, seldom writing about it. On the other hand, I don’t think I need to be apologetic about it. Getting language right takes the same attitude — attention to detail — that stands a person in good stead. More generally, a culture or economy that devalues the striving for excellence shortchanges itself. I sometimes think a widespread neglect of language quality in Singapore reflects a neglect of perfectionism, which shows up in a myriad ways from train breakdowns and bus delays to stark gaps in the social safety net. Continue reading ‘From words to deeds, attention to detail matters’
It’s taken me a while to think of a theme for this end-of-year post. Just in time, I have it: Space. Or rather, the ever-tightening amount of space in Singapore. The space I speak of is not just physical space, but also expressive space. Continue reading ‘As space tightens, Singaporeans suffocate’
The post described Singaporeans as a perennially grumpy lot, bitching even about trains arriving 30 seconds late. At first, I gave it little thought. The post was one of many linked from Facebook which I cursorily surfed through while munching my breakfast this morning. I didn’t even keep the link; now I can’t find it any more. It was penned by a Malaysian visiting from Penang who was expressing his amazement at how “advanced” Singapore was, and yet how unreasonable Singaporeans were in not appreciating what we have.
I do recognise however that the remark was really a metaphor for a general state of unhappiness; it was not meant to be taken literally.
But as the day wore on, my mind went back to this comment a few times, and I thought to myself: I don’t see why we should necessarily be ashamed of being demanding. Setting high standards is, after all, the first step to achieving them. I would much rather that we as a people are perpetually dissatisfied and striving for better than be too accommodative of slack. Continue reading ‘The importance of wanting trains to run on time’
Not only has the government’s response to this week’s haze problem been one of weak-kneed impotency, the absence of any effective solution shows how little has been done to prepare for what has, over the last two decades, become an annually recurring problem.
We knew as far back as middle last year that the El Nino weather pattern was returning for 2013. We knew it would mean a hotter, dryer year than normal, so not only would haze be a virtually certain problem, it may turn out to be prolonged and more intense. And yet, when it hit, it looked as if the authorities were caught by surprise. Continue reading ‘Haze comes, government in tizzy’
Earlier this year, the future of hawker centres was in the news. The chief concern was the sustainability of the institution (if one can call it that), but much of the discussion centred around how to keep food cheap. A side issue was the declining quality, for which a ‘Hawker Academy’ idea was floated. It struck me even then that insufficient attention was being paid to a much more fundamental question: where are hawkers going to come from in the years ahead? All the talk about pricing and training will be meaningless if not enough people want to be hawkers. Continue reading ‘Who wants to be a hawker?’